Genre: Interactive mystery/adventure/urban fantasy
Synopsis: All the characters we’ve heard of in fairy tales are real, but they’ve long since fled their homelands to find refuge in our world. Referring to themselves as Fables, Snow White, Bluebeard, and the Little Mermaid all live in an NYC neighborhood, policing each other.
The sheriff of this community is Bigby Wolf–otherwise known as the big bad wolf. And sure, he’s got a bad history with a lot his neighbors, but things are different now. So when Fables at the margins of his society start dying, he’s going to find out why. Then make whoever did it pay.
Series: The first season can stand alone. There are rumors of a season 2 eventually getting made–the problem seems to be that Telltale’s schedule is extremely full with more popular properties–but nothing official yet.
Verdict: So incredibly good. This is a really unique and powerful work of media.
For those who aren’t familiar with Telltale’s brand, they make narrative-heavy games in their own unique style. The protagonist moves through the story from scene to scene, investigating the area and selecting dialogue options which affect how the narrative branches out. It’s super cool and unlike anything else.
Telltale’s created these kinds of games for a number or properties–The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Borderlands. The Wolf Among Us is a prequel story to the equally fantastic Fables comic book series, where the player is Bigby Wolf.
Bigby has a shady past, and most of the Fables in Fabletown distrust him for it. He might be the sheriff now, but many doubt that he’s truly reformed. And they have cause, because Bigby is struggling. The player gets to choose how often he succeeds and how often he fails.
There are a plethora of murder investigations and urban fantasies in media, but The Wolf Among Us uses its iconic characters to its advantage. They’re well-crafted in their own right, but we know something about them from the moment we hear their names. It immediately engages us in their story and adds instant depth, because the backstory is already in our heads.
Need to go talk to new characters during the investigation? Turns out they’re Beauty and the Beast, living in an urban apartment in NYC. We can look forward to discovering the nuances of their character interpretation, but we already know something about their history and relationship. Not all of the stories that this world draws on are so easily recognizable–there’s Donkeyskin or even urban legends like Bloody Mary. But even then, it’s interesting to discover how they fit into this world and what they can do. (Note that I didn’t notice the game incorporating any non-Western based stories, or any PoC who weren’t background characters–which was a bit surprising given that The Walking Dead game had many PoC.)
The characterization is amazing, with a number of distinct personalities shaped by their world and circumstances. The atmosphere in the game is wonderful and immersive. The quick time events aren’t hard (from the perspective of someone who plays with a mouse and keyboard), but they do immerse the player into the suspense of the story. The music, the timing, everything works together to create this gritty yet still somehow colorful world.
One thing I was initially hesitant about was the plot revolving around the murders of seemingly young women, many of them prostitutes, as investigated by a straight white male detective. That’s a theme that usually isn’t treated with the appropriate amount of respect. But thankfully, The Wolf Among Us puts in the work to humanize the victims. Even though Bigby himself is the jaded investigator, whenever he doesn’t have a personal connection, the game puts someone else in the scene who’ll humanize the situation–often someone who can imagine herself as that victim.
Besides that, there are situations involving stalking, control, and a number of disturbing things–and the show always works to give the people affected by these things a voice. To give everyone a voice, actually. It’s one of the things that really gets me about the story, the sheer number of powerful moments that arise when someone gives their perspective–it’s so nuanced and real.
I loved this game. It was nigh perfect storytelling, in a truly compelling format.
“When we suffer, we do it in silence. And the world likes it that way.”